The misunderstood nap

This morning while doing my usual tour through the blogosphere, I stopped at blog that had a You Tube clip of Paul Mooney talking to a young woman about a wide array of issues. At the beginning of the piece Mooney makes mention to the young Black woman interviewing him that he knew she had a gig because she was employed and her hair was relaxed. (sorry, gotta grab mini-me from daycare so I am rushing and paraphrasing) It was a cute Mooney moment but for some reason its been on my mind all day.

Now I have been an unrelaxed aka no chemicals in the hair sista going on 9 years now, for the past 4.5 years I have been growing locs (dreadlocks) and for 3.5 of those years I have been free-forming (just wash, separate, oil and go, no other manipulation). My initial decision to stop relaxing was partially because I knew I might move to Maine and figured there would be few places to get my coif done on a regular basis; I was also tired of being a slave to the hair shop. See back in the day, I had a standing Friday afternoon date with my old beautician, every week for a wash/dry and curl and every 6 weeks for a touch-up. My hair care was written into the budget like the light bill and back then I was paying with tip damn near $50 a week to keep my hair bouncing and behaving. I pretty much just got tired and wanted to be free.

Now it took some time for me to make the leap, I did the weave thing for a while, tried braids but one day just got tired of it all and went to the shop and told ole girl to cut it all off, so I walked out with at best 2 inches on my head. When I got home, I could tell that the spousal unit was trying not to cry and when my Pops saw me he was so disgusted at my bald head he stopped talking to me for 2 weeks. Thankfully my Mom loved it so much that a couple of months later she too went natural though she later went back to relaxing because she got tired of my Pops bitching.

I learned early on that fear of the naps is real as hell and was reminded of that when Paul Mooney in his piece spoke of white folks fearing naps, yet I would add that I think more than white folks fearing nappy hair, Black folks are even more afraid of naps.

So today I found myself thinking back on my hair journey, early on in my nappy state, I became a militant nappy.. you know the type. The sista that judges everyone who is relaxed, thankfully that stage has long past and these days I got no issues with relaxed sistas, other than if you are going to be relaxed, take care of your hair. Now I admit when I see relaxed sistas with missing edges who want to look at me with a greasy look, I do get pissed. I also admit I don’t understand if you are going to be relaxed and only rock that one sad ponytail with the dirty pony tail holder, frankly that’s a tad gross. On the other hand if your hair is healthy and your style is fierce, you get a big smile from me.

However the loc journey has been a fascinating one since initially I had no idea where it would go, it was a month after my Mom died and I was having a JOB moment and just needed to do something, honestly I always thought I would have groomed locs since deep down I think I was scared of naps- what would folks think if I walked around with a heavy of openly nappy hair? Yet as the process went on and I got stronger, I started to care a lot less what anyone thought about my head. Shit, when you are a cocoa-complexioned sista, it ain’t like anyone is ever going to confuse me for being white. Back when I had straight hair, I would occasionally get mistaken for being Puerto Rican or Dominican and when I was young and still silly enough to not realize that there are folks from the African diaspora in both places, I used to think it was nice since maybe it meant I was less Black. (yeah, I know like I said silly thinking).

No, I no longer fear the naps but I do notice that folks both Black and white seem to think that a nappy haired especially a dread-locked wearing Black woman is a tad militant, and while I have militant moments truth is I am not militant. I sometimes encounter young Black women who express a desire to go nappy but are worried about how their naps will be perceived in the work world, to that I say yes you might put off some folks but truthfully someone who cares about what’s on your head rather than what’s in it is probably not someone you want to work for.

Nappy hair is misunderstood by most but for me I embrace it. Gotta run..

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